Books that adults should read, Relationship Tales, STEM Fiction, Teen, YA

The Quiet At The End Of The World by Lauren James

How far would you go to save those you love?

Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Closeted in a pocket of London and doted upon by a small, ageing community, the pair spend their days mudlarking and looking for treasure – until a secret is uncovered that threatens not only their family but humanity’s entire existence.

Now Lowrie and Shen face an impossible choice: in the quiet at the end of the world, they must decide what to sacrifice to save the whole human race…

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All that history – all that time – wiped away in one moment.  Just like us.  Humans will be as easily lost as these footprints, when the last of us dies.  Our lives are particles on a riverbed being lost by the waters of time.  Here and then gone in a moment.  Nothing, in the grand scheme of things.

For me, this is one of the underlying themes of this book.  It ponders the bigger questions that we have about our very existence with subtlety and grace.  What is it all for? What happens when human beings are no longer here, when WE face extinction? In Lowrie’s world that reality is not too far away but what The Quiet At The End Of The World does, within the pages of this exciting story about two teenagers facing the world alone, is to look at how incredible human beings are. So surely there must be a way that, in the end, we can save ourselves.  The capacity of genius is there within us. We are capable of evolving, moving forward and having a real positive effect on the world in which we live.  Yes we can be selfish, arrogant and our obsession with power is our worst enemy and yet we have this huge potential to be amazing.

If you think that the world is going to end after you’ve gone, then you’re not trying hard enough to find a way to live.

I realise now that every person can make a difference.  However small a change, it counts.

Within this YA novel are characters and situations that young people can relate to. They are facing these massive problems and yet they also experience the same doubts, fears and confusion that we all have felt growing up.  It highlights how these things never really change.  The issues may alter slightly but when it comes down to it there is the same anguish over life, our world and our place within it, as we move through to adulthood whilst getting to know and accept ourselves for who we are.

The Quiet At The End Of The World  explores identity, sexuality and the desire to follow find our own way, no matter what the world throws at you.  Lowrie is a strong female lead.  She’s intelligent, adventurous and determined to make her own place in the world.  She’s fiercely loyal and courageous.  Her relationship with Shen is interestingly explored, the pressure of being the youngest and possibly the last of the human race makes the friendship they have even more precious.  I loved watching how things developed with them.

Their fascination with the world and it’s history is strong from the outset. Whilst out mudlarking one day they stumble across a relic from the past century and with the help of social media records are able to uncover the mysterious owner and discover a little more about the virus that has caused the global infertility.  Gradually they find out more and more, information that becomes vital as a new danger emerges and threatens the very existence of everyone they love and care for.

Author, Lauren James, is a graduate of Chemistry and Physics and through her novels she is making science look cool and relevant.  Her love and knowledge of technology is clear and it’s good to see it portrayed in a positive light. For example the dangers of social media are often (quite rightly) highlighted but these things are now part of who we are and can also be a positive part of today’s world. Lauren doesn’t preach to her readers, she simply shows how our actions, no matter how small, do have a consequence. But she doesn’t condemn, she inspires. As a Librarian, Lauren makes my job terribly easy to find smart, sassy novels for teens & young adults who like their fiction to reflect who they are, or who they aspire to be.

This is a fantastic novel. Lowrie and Shen are normal teenagers in an abnormal world. So much depends on them and although their plight is a story of science fiction it is incredibly thought-provoking. There are so many things within the pages of this story that are so very real. Perfect for teens & Ya, but for all the adults out there – never be afraid to pick up a book such as this. If your children are reading it then it’s important but more than that it will also tap in to that part of you that was young and full of dreams as to what the world could be for you.

The Quiet At The End Of The World is a novel that will definitely be one of my top reads for 2019.

I think about the legacy we’re leaving behind all the time: pollution and plastic and buildings and everything else. As one of the last humans, my choices and decisions are imbued with the full weight of the billions of lives that came before me. It feels like my ancestors are watching me, waiting to see how I ensure their legacy, how I remember them.’

About the author

Screen Shot 2019-03-30 at 09.32.21Lauren James was born in 1992, and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. She is the Carnegie-nominated British Young Adult author of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, The Quiet at the End of the World and The Next Together series.

She started writing during secondary school English classes, because she couldn’t stop thinking about a couple who kept falling in love throughout history. She sold the rights to the novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university.

Her books have sold over fifty thousand copies in the UK alone, and been translated into five languages worldwide. She has been described as ‘Gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘A strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly.

Her other novels include The Last Beginning, named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for young adults by the Independent, and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, which was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. The Quiet at the End of the World considers the legacy and evolution of the human race into the far future.

Lauren is published in the UK by Walker Books and in the US by HarperCollins. She lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2019. She teaches creative writing at university level, and works with Writing West Midlands, providing creative writing courses to children through the Spark Young Writers programme.

You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James, Tumblr at @laurenjames or her website http://www.laurenejames.co.uk, where you can subscribe to her newsletter to be kept up to date with her new releases and receive bonus content.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Young Adult Fiction

Odette by Jessica Duchen

Odette Cover Image.jpgThere is something rather wonderfully unique about this tale. A fairytale for grown ups with all the darkness and magic that surrounds them. I absolutely adore the ballet Swan Lake; the music, the dancing and the storytelling is all wonderful and something I never tire of. When I read the synopsis of Odette my immediate thought was ‘I have to read this!’ I was curious how this tragic story could be brought into the twenty-first century.

By day Odette lives as a swan and then at dusk she becomes a woman and so it has been for nearly 200 years after being cursed by the evil Baron Von Rothbart. She lost everything that day and ever since has been looking for her one true love, a love that will last a lifetime – as this, she believes, is the key to break the spell. Then on a cold, stormy night she crashes through Mitzi’s window. Mitzi who is nursing her own broken heart after the death of her father and the end of a relationship. Mitzi who now wonders if she might be going mad. After all how else would you explain a woman who is half human, half swan?

With most fairy-tales true love is the key to breaking the spell but this is no ordinary fairy-tale and I was carried along following the twists and turns, wondering if a young woman from the 19th century could actually find true love in the 21st.  The combination of villainy, romance, music and literature all added up to an enchanting read.

I absolutely adored this novel. It is a wonderful story and the ending quite unexpected but perfect. The characters remain with me long after reading the final word and I can still see them all in my mind’s eye. I’d love to know what life has in store for them next.

This is a story about finding love, empathy, loyalty and friendship.  Yet it also touches on contemporary issues such as homelessness, exploitation, illegal immigrants and integration.   It shimmered and shined from beginning to end and held me under it’s spell long after I read the final page. Thoroughly recommended.

SYNOPSIS
When a swan crashes through her window at the height of a winter storm, Mitzi Fairweather decides to nurse the injured bird back to health. At sunset, though, it becomes a human being.

This unexpected visitor is Odette, the swan princess – alone, in danger and adrift in 21st-century Britain, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Bird by day, woman by night, with no way to go home to Russia, she remains convinced that only a man’s vow of eternal love can break her spell.

Mitzi is determined to help Odette, but as the two try to hide the improbable truth, their web of deception grows increasingly tangled…

A narrated concert based on ODETTE is in the planning stages with the award-winning violinist Fenella Humphreys. pianist Viv McLean and Jessica as narrator. Music will include a celebration of Tchaikovsky’s magical score for Swan Lake, plus works by Chopin, Liszt and Gershwin. The first performances will be at Music at Mansfield Street, London W1, 17 April 2019 and St Mary’s, Perivale, 27 April 2019. – This sounds just wonderful!

About The Author

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Jessica Duchen is an acclaimed author and journalist, specialising in words for, with and about music. Her work has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, plus numerous magazines around the world. Her first five novels have gathered a loyal fan-base and wide acclaim. Music plays a vital role in her books, and she frequently narrates concert versions of Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dances and Ghost Variations.

Jessica is the librettist for the opera Silver Birch by Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington Opera and shortlisted for a 2018 International Opera Award. Current projects include the libretto for a youth opera with composer Paul Fincham for Garsington 2019 (an updating of an Oscar Wilde fairy tale) and two large-scale choral works with Roxanna Panufnik.

She was born within the sound of Bow Bells, studied music at Cambridge and held editorial posts on several music magazines before going freelance to concentrate on writing. She edited a piano magazine for five years and was then classical music and ballet correspondent for The Independent from 2004-2016. Her output also includes plays, poetry, biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Fauré (published by Phaidon) and her popular classical music blog, JDCMB. She lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats. She enjoys playing the piano, cookery, long walks and obscure books about music.

Thank you to Anne at RandomThingsTours for my ebook to read and review and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.  This is definitely one I will be buying for my bookshelves.

For a longer synopsis and an extract from the book please visit: https://unbound.com/books/odette/

LINKS

ORDER FROM UNBOUND

https://unbound.com/books/odette/

AMAZON: PAPERBACK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Odette-Jessica-Duchen/dp/1789650003/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1539504625&sr=8-1&keywords=Odette+duchen

AMAZON: KINDLE

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Odette-Jessica-Duchen-ebook/dp/B07JC5NJ4Y/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1539504625&sr=8-2&keywords=Odette+duchen

WATERSTONES

https://www.waterstones.com/book/odette/jessica-duchen/9781789650006

JESSICA DUCHEN’S WEBSITE

https://www.jessicaduchen.co.uk

 

 

 

Fiction, Review, Young Adult Fiction

Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

EVERYONE’S GOING TO REMEMBER WHERE THEY WERE WHEN THE TAPS RAN DRY

The drought – or the tap-out, as everyone calls it – has been going on for a while. Life has become an endless list of don’t: don’t water the lawn, don’t take long showers, don’t panic. But now there is no water left at all.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation and violence. When her parents go missing, she and her younger brother must team up with an unlikely group in search of water. Each of them will need to make impossible choices to survive.

The kitchen faucet makes the most bizarre sounds.

It coughs and wheezes like it’s gone asthmatic. It gurgles like someone drowning. It spits once, and then goes silent.

And so it begins…

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There are certain things in modern life that are a given. We go to the supermarket, we buy food. We go home and then cook and eat that food. Our neighbours are often there for us in a crisis. Help is always on hand. We have fresh water to drink and wash with. We only have to turn on the tap. So imagine if one day the water ran out. Imagine the worst possible drought. Not in some far off country that you see in commercials asking for aid but in the country you live. A country where swimming pools are common place and everything is taken for granted.

Dry is a great novel. Through the eyes of a regular, American, suburban family we see the breakdown of society. Every aspect of human nature is shown within this story. The heroes, the cowards and the villains. Those who find their calling, those who find their strength and also those who will take and do anything, at whatever cost, to profit from the suffering of others.

After the taps run dry, Alyssa and her brother Garrett watch their parents head off towards a promised supply of fresh water.

‘See you in a bit’ Alyssa says as they go but she’s uneasy. Supplies are dwindling fast and people are turning on each other as the panic begins to spread. When their parents don’t return, the youngsters embark on a dangerous journey to find them and the water. With danger around every corner and not knowing who they can trust, things begin to spiral out of control and it’s not long before Alyssa and Garrett are fighting for their lives.

They form an unlikely fellowship with some other kids, kids they wouldn’t normally have anything to do with, but there is nothing normal about their situation and it doesn’t take them long to work out that if they’re going to survive this, they’re going to have to work together.

An absolutely electrifying story that looks at the many sides of human nature and the lengths that people will go to to survive in a world that suddenly turns upside down.

Dry is published by Walker Books.

Blog Tour, Someone Else’s Shoes, Time to talk, Young Adult Fiction

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow Blog Tour – seeing things from another perspective

This is a blog tour with a difference and I’m delighted to be kicking it off today on Tales Before Bedtime. The tour has been inspired by the novel, Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham which is published today by Walker Books. As Siobhan’s book is about empathy and seeing things from others perspective I’m delighted to have the opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes and post a piece by a fellow blogger and book lover.

Our lives are often touched by people who leave a mark: perhaps a light in dark times or kindness, love and laughter. Perhaps they’ve reminded us of who we are or who we’d like to be, or simply they’ve become part of memories that stay with us long after we’ve known them. Quite often we never get the chance to let them know what they mean to us and Amy has expressed this perfectly in her piece. We should never presume that others know how we feel about them. Some things just shouldn’t be left unsaid.

 

So now over to Amy.

Open Letter: To those, I still love but have lost

To those, I still love but have lost,

I have wanted to write this for the longest time, but this was finally the right time. For this blog tour but also because I finished university recently. University was a place where I met so many new people, but my life seems very up in the air.

You might be wondering who this is about, and the truth is: this is for everyone. Anyone who has made an impact on my life. My friends. My family. Those who are no longer in my life anymore. Although this is my side of the story, I respect your OK too. After all friendship is a two-way relationship.

Life has a way of making us lose touch with people. People you think will be in the longest time in life. You make plans. Going to university. Even bridesmaid at a wedding. Then BAM. Life gets in the way. You move. Someone else moves. You lose contact. Your life becomes liking each other’s posts on Instagram or Facebook. You become someone’s old friend rather than someone’s friend. It’s weird.

So, this is for you. You may never see this, but I know that you mean something to me. We may have lost touch, but I still love you. Like you. Remember you. I remember the times when I laughed so hard that I cried. The films that we saw together. Our days at school. The lessons and the inside jokes that only worked at that times that we would laugh at and everyone would think we were crazy. The lunchtimes. The breaks. The throwaway conversations about our day. The nights that we stayed up too late and the sleepovers that we had.

I remember it all. And I hope you do too. But I don’t mind if I am just a distance memory. We needed each other at that time. We moved on and that’s OK. A piece of me would like to talk to you. See you again. See where you are now. But I don’t mind if I don’t. I hope you are well. That your life is great. Because you deserve it. You really do.

So that’s you. If you wonder about me. I’m good. I’m really good. I’m doing what I love, and I am working towards where I want to be. I hope that this is enough. I really do. But if that’s not. Do what I am scared to do. Because I’m here. I’m here.

The weird thing is that I don’t know how to end this, so I’ll leave it here. If you read this and think it sounds like you. Then it probably is. Know that I remember you. That I love you.

Amy

Thank you Amy for sharing such a personal message with us. It was lovely to read.

Do make a visit to Amy’s blog here where she shares her love of books and writing.

And readers do share your thoughts on this post by leaving a comment. Do you have anything you wish you hadn’t left unsaid?

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Want to know a little more about Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham? Here’s the synopsis.

img_0022Fourteen-year-old Stevie lives in Lewes with her beloved vinyl collection, her mum … and her mum’s depression. When Stevie’s mum’s disability benefits are cut, Stevie and her mother are plunged into a life of poverty. But irrepressible Stevie is determined not to be beaten and she takes inspiration from the lyrics of her father’s 1980s record collection and dreams of a life as a musician. Then she meets Hafiz, a talented footballer and a Syrian refugee. Hafiz’s parents gave their life savings to buy Hafiz a safe passage to Europe; his journey has been anything but easy. Then he meets Stevie…

As Stevie and Hafiz’s friendship grows, they encourage each other to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.

 An uplifting story of friendship, unity and hope that highlights the important and topical issues surrounding young carers and young refugees.

Find out more about this title from Walker Books by visiting their website here.

Thank so much to Kirsten and John at Walker books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

Adult Fiction, Author Spotlight, Blog Tour, Young Adult Fiction

Author Spotlight – Gayle Forman

I have lost my voice

I have lost my love

 I have lost everything

Spring has finally kicked in here in the South East of England.  The trees are springing to life with beautiful blossom and the landscape is brightened with bright and colourful daffodils, crocus and primroses.  The smell of spring and new beginnings is in the air and so it seems perfectly fitting that my author spotlight should fall on YA author Gayle Forman, and her latest novel, I HAVE LOST MY WAY.  I’m also delighted to be the stop on day three in the #IHaveLostMyWay blog tour.

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…a tender, sad and yet uplifting tale that shows the power of friendship in times when we feel desperate and unable to find a solution. Three strangers come together and show that strength can be found with each and every one of us no matter what our individual troubles may be. That we too can find our way to a life we truly deserve when we are true to ourselves.

Beautiful, tender and very important, Gayle Forman has yet again captured a coming of age novel that will fill you with hope, love, acceptance and courage.

Gayle Forman makes an incredibly important contribution to today’s YA literature and if you haven’t read her before then I HAVE LOST MY WAY is a great place to start (there is also an amazing back catalogue of her books for you to discover). She captures those difficult years we all go through when finding our identity, leaning about who we are and accepting that we are all different.  Of course this never really ends.  Life is a journey and we are constantly changing and growing according to the roads we take along the way, but our young adulthood is, I believe, when our experiences feel at their most raw and Gayle captures that perfectly.

I grew up in the 80’s and went through my teens and early adulthood with the films of John Hughes; there was something in them that captured my attention and seemed to tap into inner emotions and feelings of self doubt.  So I was fascinated that Gayle’s early influence was Molly Ringwald – someone I myself found a source of comfort as I struggled to fit in to the world around me.

With her YA novels Gayle too is able to tap into emotions that are difficult to voice and I think by reading and getting to know her characters and their own pain you can learn to understand a little more about what you too are going through.  You are not alone.  Our experiences, difficulties, dreams and fears are all unique to us but there is something comforting in knowing we are not alone in the message that we all have those feelings.  I HAVE LOST MY WAY is a perfect example; showing that even three strangers who come together in unexpected circumstances can change their perspective and find hope where hope is lost.

Here’s a little more from Gayle herself…

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Which novel do you wish you could have read when you were a teenager?

I would’ve liked to read SAVING FRANCESCA by Melina Marchetta in middle school. I was miserable, a weirdo outcast. Years later, in high school, I would find my people. I love that novel, how Francesca and her friends, find their family of friends where they least expect it. Melina is one of my favourite young adult authors.

You’re characterisation is incredibly intimate which helps us really connect with them. How well do you get to know your characters before you start writing? Or do they develop along with the story?

Both. The book sparked when Freya started whispering in my ear “I have lost my way.” I knew she was a singer who had lost her voice but I didn’t know why. Harun followed and then Nathaniel. Though Freya came to me first, she was actually the last one to crack. It was right at the very end that I understood what motivated her and how that tied into her loss. Ironically, Harun, the character I have the least in common with on the surface, was the one who I understood most immediately.

I feel so close to all three of these characters. More so than any others before them. Which is saying a lot because IF I STAY’s Mia and Adam are like my children!

Where did your inspiration for I Have Lost My Way come from?

My last YA novel was published in 2015 but I actually wrote it in 2011. In the intervening years, I tried, and failed, to find a new YA story to write. I managed to publish a novel for adults (LEAVE ME) but YA is my home and I couldn’t seem to find my way back. I began to wonder if I’d ever write another book. Everything I wrote (and I crashed and burned on 7 different novels) felt insufficient, inauthentic, hollow. It was like the thing I’d known how to do, had always done—explain my world through story—I couldn’t do anymore. I kept thinking: I have lost my way. And then one day Freya came along and said it to me and it started from there.

You were obsessed with Molly Ringwald as a teen. Which is your favourite character that she played?

Samantha in Sixteen Candles. It’s a movie that doesn’t really hold up over time—it’s racist; it’s rapey—but it was the first time I ever saw the weird girl get the boy. Which, in 1980s parlance, was a huge validation that the weird girl had value. I was a weird girl. So you can imagine how this appealed to me.

What are you currently reading?

I’m on vacation with my family and I’m reading Matt Haig’s HOW TO STOP TIME and listening to CONCUSSION by Jeanne Marie Laskas, narrated by Huilar Huber.

And here is my review for I HAVE LOST MY WAY

i have lost my wayA heart-wrenching and powerful YA story exploring themes of loss, love and discovery, from award-winning, bestselling author, Gayle Forman

The story is told over the course of one day with flash backs to the past to help us engage with the characters and understand what has brought them to this place and this moment in time. Through Harun we learn to understand love through his own loss and fears. The love he feels is alien and not acceptable within the society he lives in. He is ashamed, obsessed and utterly lost. Freya is a star in the making but is following a difficult path and is torn between the need for adoration and the ‘friends’ and sense of belonging she fears she will lose if she can no longer sing. Her lack of self-love is evident as she fears losing her voice will mean losing her place in the world and the acceptance she craves. Nathaniel is a tortured soul and his sadness pours from the pages as we slowly discover the tragedy that has driven him to New York. Each character is suffering their own pain and yet when they are brought together they find the strength to try a different path. But is friendship enough to heal the pain of the past?

This is a tender, sad and yet uplifting tale that shows the power of friendship in times when we feel desperate and unable to find a solution. Three strangers come together and show that strength can be found with each and every one of us no matter what our individual troubles may be. That we too can find our way to a life we truly deserve when we are true to ourselves. Beautiful, tender and very important, Gayle Forman has yet again captured a coming of age novel that will fill you with hope, love, acceptance and courage.

I HAVE LOST MY WAY was published on the 5th of April 2018 in the UK by Simon&Schuster.

To discover more about Gayle Forman and her books visit her website here.